It was going to be hard to do 30 posts on Emily Badger’s articles and not hit a hot button issue. Today may be one of those times, but as a palate cleanser I promise to put a funny pet video at the end of any and all posts that can invoke strong opinions.
A new book argues that locavores are terrible for the environment, the economy and global food security.
That book referred to in the title of this Emily Badger article is The Locavore’s Dilemma by economic geographer, Pierre Desrochers. The bulk of Badger’s article centers around a talk Desrcohers gave at the libertarian Cato Institute back in 2012. But you can catch Desrocher discussing his book in the Portland area, and this is the speculative date, probably the day after never.
Desrochers begins his talk with this question: “If things were so great when food was produced locally, why did people bother developing a globalized food chain in the first place?” I imagine there aren’t a ton of Portlanders who would attend that seminar. In fact, many people would argue locally produced goods thrive in Portland. Take for example “Brew to Bikes” a book by Portland State University’s own Charles Heying, that praises our city’s thriving artisan economy.
The viewpoints of Desrocher and his wife, Hiroko Shimizu (the co-author of the book), seem to come from data that was largely analyzed through a pro-agribusiness and industrial progression lens. Not to say their work should be discounted but rather further evaluated beyond a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. I say this because he does make valid points from an economics standpoint, and the fact that it is simply impossible to argue that agriculture has become a more efficient supplier of food on a global scale. He offers up some pretty solid statistics on environmental impacts of food production and distribution. And to maybe clear up some frustration with some readers, they aren’t against all forms of localized food production. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
In isolated rural areas where land is cheap, game animals abundant and economic opportunities limited, it often makes perfect sense to cultivate large vegetable gardens along with fruit and nut trees; to keep animal coops while having a few grass-fed ruminants roam over the surrounding pastureland; and to supply one’s pantry, root cellar and freezer with the results of hunting, fishing and harvesting wild food of various kinds.
Again, I’m not sure who would take a bold step to disagree with that, but here’s where I tend to differ with Desrocher. His major point, as Emily states in big bold font after the second paragraph break: “He is essentially arguing that local food is fundamentally incompatible with urbanism.” I don’t buy it. There are entire local food programs dedicated to green economics, sustainable development, urban social networks, and community development. And although the study of “utility” or specific metrics in economics to measure happiness and satisfaction exists, it doesn’t seem to have an impact on the findings within A Locavore’s Dilemma.
I found an excellent article on UC Berkeley’s Alumni page (of all places) by Glen Martin that made some excellent points on this issue. Martin hears from Maisie Greenawalt, vice president of Bon Appétit, a Palo Alto–based food service management company, who perfectly sums up what Desrocher is missing.
Greenawalt points out that robust local food systems strengthen communities, bonding people to their fellow citizens and surrounding landscapes. “There’s a multiplier effect,” she says. “Local food production creates jobs. It re-invigorates languishing downtowns through farmer’s markets. It preserves green space around urban cores, and it provides educational opportunities to children, who get a chance to see working farms.”
I’ll leave it at that because I’m incapable of bettering that point. BUT! I am going to come back tomorrow on this very same article because there was one thing in particular I wanted to focus on, but for the sake of time and length of the article I will break it up. No one said I had rules to follow in this column!
And as promised. Here’s your funny pet video. Today, dogs react to finding cats sleeping in their beds:
Hit me up in the discussion section or on twitter: @joshg22 I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue and where you fall in as a consumer of foods.